The grand city of New York City has a fabulous history and many of our ancestors either arrived first to the port of New York, made the city their home, traveled to the city, served in the military or had business dealings there. So this is an important location to see what ties our ancestors may have had with New York City. Besides the family connections, the city has been at the heart of much of the history of the United States.
The New York City Department of Records – Municipal Archives Gallery has put together a wonderful collection of photographs, maps, posters, plus sound and video clips of events, places, people of the city over the years. There are over 870,000 items in this collection all accessible online.
The collection is divided into categories; such as hospitals, ports, bridges, parks, fire department, government leaders and radio-film-TV. The Municipal Archives Collection covers 1880 to 1990 with over 3,000 photos showing people, the waterfront, buildings, street scenes, shops and many more, some of which the locations no longer exist.
On the list of categories is Radio, Film and TV with about 15 different items ranging from the 1920s to the 1960s. For anyone with an ancestor who worked as a NYC fireman, there is a great collection of 763 images of the fire departments covering 1900 to 1963. These images show the firemen battling flames in tall buildings or at the docks and the aftermath of the fires. Each photo can be enlarged for clearer viewing.
An invaluable category are the five boroughs 1980s tax photos. For property tax purposes every home, building, structure and including vacant lots were photographed. This is a great way to view if a certain home or building still existed between 1983 and 1989 and what it looked like in the 1980s. There are photos for places in Staten Island, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx. In Manhattan there are over 70,000 images and in Brooklyn about 262,000 photos were taken. The category on city parks has images dating back to the 1850s.
Use the general search box in the upper right and place a location and many images appear as a thumbnail which then can be enlarged and a description provided. Putting in “Empire State Building” had 68 results, Ellis Island had 67 and the World Trade Center had 51 images.
So there is a good deal to explore with this large collection of New York City.
Photo: Fire at corner of Walker and Lafayette Streets – mid-20th century.< Return To Blog